Israel has been at the forefront of solar water heaters, but woefully behind on generating solar electricity-which is surprising considering that Israel is a small country not known for significant natural resources save for the sun. And there is lots of sun in Israel. So the response to the unveiling of a major solar farm in Israel is more like, "what took you so long?"
Israel recently unveiled a 5 megawatt commercial solar field at Kibbutz Ketura, celebrating with a large opening ceremony including multiple speakers and a rapper performing his new song "Solar Energy." You've got to love it, if that is not enough to shake up the naysayers for solar energy, then what will? The solar field, built in just six months, but five years in planning, will provide the energy needs for three surrounding communities. That should just be just the beginning of a trend for Israel and its neighbors.
According to Bloomberg, this solar field is the first of 40 to be built in the Holy Land. Under Israel's feed in tariff, the solar field will reap a generous $.45/kWh. Compare that to Germany, which reportedly pays up to 49 euro cents per kilowatt hour for solar energy. The solar field in Israel is a very important first step to change Israel's very low ranking among industrial countries in solar PV development.
Israel's late embrace of photovoltaic is in contrast to Israel's trailblazing in solar thermal. Israel is the world leader in solar water heating with 85% of households utilizing the sun to heat water for the house. This movement started in the 1960s after an energy shortage at the beginning of the country's history. In 1980, a law was passed stating all new homes had to be outfitted with solar water heaters, except high rise building where there is not enough roof space. The Climate Institute credits these solar water heaters with producing 21% of domestic electricity used in the country.
Now, as Israel tries to break into the field of solar PV, Arava Power Company, the company behind the field, says this is just the tip of the iceberg. Public Radio International says the company has announced an investment of two billion dollars for 40 projects, 14 of those projects ready to begin any minute. Unfortunately, there are a few roadblocks causing some trouble in the growth of Israel's solar industry. In Israel, before anything run by solar power is put in use, the builders must apply for a license and be granted one, causing great delays in the industry.
With the global industry growing, many Israeli builders are also looking to hop on the solar power bandwagon, thus creating a bottleneck effect at the licensing offices. While over 600 applications get filed, only about 16-20 get approved per month. Arava Power has more applications filed than any other company but still is having difficulty getting approved. The Jerusalem Post says this makes what should be a 60 day process take up to a year. While Israel's solar power industry looks to grow and make the nation greener, could the government be the one to hold development back? If Israeli's can fight through all the red tape, it will show the world that solar PV is truly worth it and boost the solar industry worldwide.